Purple Pain Forums Round Table: Part III

One of the great joys of running this site rests in the connections I’ve been able to make within the broader Vikings community on the interwebs. One of the first connections I made was with Purple Pain Forums. It’s a site with lots of passionate discussion of the Vikings, so definitely check it out if you’re interested in talking about our team. Funkytown and Danchat – two of the leaders over there – are back once again to offer up some wisdom. They provide some great insight on the Minnesota Vikings roster, salary cap, upcoming draft, and much more. Enjoy.

1) Rick Spielman, clearly worn down from the Sisyphean task of trying to improve Minnesota’s team, tracks you down with a request. The team only has enough money to sign one: an impact returner, 3T, or iOL. He puts the decision on you. Who do you choose? Why?

NN: All three would make a massive difference in Minnesota. If I could only choose one, it’d be the 3T. The defense struggled so much this season, and many of the issues would be helped (solved?) by improved play along the defensive line. There is a lot of uncertainty heading into next season. If things go well, though, one could easily envision the Vikings having a strong defensive line, especially if they do actually add an impact player at 3T. Hunter, Pierce, and Mystery 3T would be a lot for the opposition.

Funky: Because I want more money to take care of business with guys like Reiff and Smith, I’ll go “an impact returner.” Who? You already know who. Come back home, Patterson! I just read that last year Patterson led the NFC (and was second in the NFL) in kick return average at 29.06 yards. He cost the Bears $5.25 million in 2020 and $4.8 million in 2019. However, the average cap cost of the next 10-best kick returners in the league was just $1.06 million. He’s good, affordable, and, heck, we really, really need some serious help for that special teams unit!

Looks like he’s ready to get back to work, too!

Bring our boy back home!

Danchat: I think 3T is the most important need, even more than OG, due to the complete failure of the defensive line’s ability to accomplish literally anything in 2020. They only have a single proven pass rusher on the team (Hunter) and need to at least add a second at DT or the other DE spot. I would sign Giants’ DT Leonard Williams. He’s coming off an impressive 11.5 sack season and would profile as a 4-3 DT after playing DE/DT in 3-4 schemes. It’s not a foolproof move since Williams was good-not-great before getting saved [traded] from the Jets, but the Vikings have to do something. Sheldon Rankins would be a quality backup plan if the bidding got really crazy.

2) Let’s say the worst case happens and Minnesota is dealing with a $175 million salary cap. What would you do to make the finances work?

NN: First thing I’m doing is making a few cuts. Kyle Rudolph recently said that he isn’t interested in taking less money, so he won’t be a Viking for very long. It’s an unfortunate end to what has been a great career. Some other cut candidates include Shamar Stephen, Riley Reiff, and Dan Bailey. I won’t be shocked if any one of these guys are cut, but I’d think the Vikings at least explore the possibility of a restructure, one that involves kicking in more guaranteed money in exchange for less cash overall.

From there, I’d extend Kirk Cousins, even if it only meant adding a year or two. I’d also look at the veterans I’m most confident in – Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks come to mind – to see about shifting money around on their contracts. Pushing money into the future for these two makes some sense given that we can reasonably believe that they’ll still be impact players within the next couple years.

Funky: I’m no salary cap expert, so I’ll leave that up to Danchat. However, I keep reading optimistic takes that it might actually be closer to $195 million. That we can handle. I will say this though: We absolutely want to keep Reiff. I keep seeing his name pop up as someone to move on from. I absolutely hate that idea, so hopefully we find a way to keep him around.

Danchat: I would be tempted to move Cousins, but for now let’s not. The Vikings will roll over $4.5M into 2021, leaving them at -$16.6M at the moment. Here’s the moves I would make in this scenario:

– Trade Anthony Barr for a late round pick and designate it as a Post June 1 move, saves $12.9M
– Cut Kyle Rudolph, saves $5.1M
– Cut Shamar Stephen, saves $3.75M
– Cut Dan Bailey, saves $1.7M
– Extend Riley Reiff, push money to 2022 and 2023 (saves around $5M)
– Extend Harrison Smith, push money to 2022 and 2023 (saves around $3M)
– Cut Dru Samia, saves $667K
– Cut Jalyn Holmes, saves $920K

That saves a total of right around $33M, leaving us with $16.4M in cap space. After all of those moves, that’s barely any space to maneuver with, especially with this team having so many holes. Not ideal, but hey, I was against many of the moves that landed us in this spot.

3) Mock draft season is already well underway. Is there a name that Vikings fans should keep an eye on?

NN: Christian Darrisaw. He is a monster at OT, one who is effective in both pass pro and run blocking. I don’t think he gets to 14, but if he does the Vikings may be pretty tempted to keep sinking high picks into their OL. I’ve also recently talked myself into Kyle Pitts being a good option in RD1.

Funky: A name? It’s probably a bit early for someone specific, but the general consensus seems to be BPA – OL or DL. I’m completely on board with that. With that said, I lean towards DL. I do think having Hunter back (he better be back) and Pierce in the lineup will improve a lot for the defense, but having another impact player on the DL would be big. Also, if we’re picking at #14, we want someone who can help win games now. I’ll keep it short and sweet in saying that I trust Andre Patterson a heck of a lot more than anyone working with the OL. What is going on over there anyway?

Danchat: I’m just starting to ramp up my draft coverage, so I don’t know many names, but at the moment I’d keep an eye on Gregory Rousseau. He’s an intriguing name since he has sky-high upside, but has only played a single year at college before opting out of the 2020 season. He’ll be raw, but potentially would have been a top 5 pick if he had more experience. He may be too tantalizing to pass up.

4) There has been a few weeks to process the disappointing season. Give us one positive and one negative for the current roster heading into the offseason

NN: One positive: some strong contributors from the rookie class. Justin Jefferson is the rightful heir of the OROY throne, Cameron Dantzler finished as a tier-1 corner in PFF’s grading system, and there were several promising moments from other picks (Gladney, Cleveland, etc.).

One negative: losing yet another OC. It just makes life so difficult for both Zim and Kirk. The lack of continuity is concerning.

Funky: Positive – our 2020 draft class as a whole. I know it’s early, but it’s hard not to be optimistic about the team moving forward. Negative – unfortunately, several of our key players are a year older. We’re running out of time here to turn this thing around.

Danchat: Positive: We finally have a draft class to build around. The 2015 draft class was one of the main reasons for the Vikings’ playoff runs in 2015 and 2017, but our classes after that mostly went awry for various reasons. The 2020 class offers hope with a #1 WR in Jefferson, a #1 CB in Dantzler and potentially another starting CB in Gladney, a starting guard in Cleveland, and some decent backups. Having these guys on cheap contracts is quite the boon.

Negative: 69% of our salary is devoted to 8 players: Cousins, Hunter, Barr, Reiff, Thielen, Kendricks, Smith, and Rudolph. That leaves just 31% of the salary for the other 45 players plus practice squad. There are some quality players in that group of names, but this group is simply not talented enough and too top heavy. Too many recent deals have been headscratchers and I don’t get what Spielman’s vision for this team is. Why are you paying Kirk so much in a run-heavy offense that shouldn’t require an expensive QB? Why is Rudolph the 6th highest paid TE in football? Why is Barr being paid like he’s a top 10-15 pass rusher when he’s a run stopping LB? How do you spend the least amount of money on the offensive line compared to all 31 other teams in football when you’re so reliant on it?!

5) We are a fan base that continually says “next year.” What needs to happen in 2021 for us to avoid having to say “next year?” In other words, what needs to happen between now and next Feb. for the Vikings to be in the Super Bowl?

NN: Step 1: Hire a dynamite OC who can help Kirk continue elevating his game by truly using all the weapons in MN’s offense. Step 2: Manage the cap shrewdly, thereby allowing the team to patch a hole or two through FA. Step 3: Hit a home run in the draft. Step 4: Make sacrifices to the injury god so we can avoid similarly disastrous health.

Follow this four-step plan and we’ve got a chance to bounce back next season. In an ideal world, get hot at just the right time (i.e. as the playoffs begin), leading to an unlikely run.

Funky: Another good offseason, fans back at US Bank Stadium, having much better injury luck, getting back to at least average on defense, and doing something with the special teams unit. Okay, I guess I’m asking for a lot?

One more thing, if it’s not too much to ask: the front office and coaching staff being on the same page. I was just talking about this on Purple Pain about Rudolph’s situation (we could mention Diggs here, too). Why sign a guy to an extension like that and then take him out of your plan on offense? The situation isn’t Rudolph’s fault; but why pay a blocking TE that kind of money? We can’t have any more of those costly miscommunications between the front office and coaching staff. Figure it out, guys!

Danchat: A perfect offseason. Somehow fix all of the open holes in the roster with a perfect draft, everyone stays healthy and the defense goes back to being a top 10 unit, the O-line is fixed, and the other NFC teams regress and have bad injury luck. The Vikings simply have so little salary flexibility that adding talent via free agency and trades will be incredibly limited, so it’s hard seeing this unit that would probably go 9-7 if everyone stayed healthy suddenly become a Super Bowl contender. Oh, and good luck keeping Dalvin healthy for all of 2021 after such a heavy load in 2020. Lightning could strike again and a 2017-esque season would be a possibility for this squad, but the chances of that are really low. But hey, it’s an odd year, so we know Zimmer’s Vikings will rebound somewhat!

If you’d like to join in on some Minnesota Vikings talk, be sure to head over to Purple Pain Forums. Follow Purple Pain Forums and Danchat on Twitter.